26 August 2005
M’sia-Australia To Conclude Negotiations On Joint FTA By Mid-2006
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 (Bernama) — The process of negotiation for the possible Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is expected to be concluded by mid-2006, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said.
She said this expectation was among some of the issues that had been agreed upon in half a day meeting of the 12th Malaysia-Australia Joint Trade Committee (JTC) here, which was co-chaired by Rafidah and Australian deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile, who is also Trade Minister.
"There is a possible implementation of FTA (between Malaysia and Australia), in which we hope to complete the (negotiation) process by mid next year," Rafidah said at the joint press conference, at her office Friday.
However, both ministers had agreed that process of negotiations were still in their early stages.
"We are establishing the parameters and key areas that we want to work on, which would then be developed into chapters for the agreement," Vaile said.
When asked on whether FTA would be signed by mid 2006 as well, Vaile said both countries did not commit themselves in absolute terms for the timeframe, but rather focusing on the best terms possible.
"Obviously, when the negotiations are completed and the agreement is reached, we will sign it. We are hopeful that (it will take place) during the course of 2006, and that is the target we will work towards."
"If it could be quicker, all the better but we want to ensure that the agreement is a good agreement for both sides," he added.
Besides discussion on FTA, both countries also renewed their committment to further increase bilateral trade which so far had recorded impressive growth.
"We need to further address the investment flows between the two countries and there is a need to encourage more of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Australia coming into Malaysia," Vaile said.
In the meantime, the business communities of both countries were urged to work closely to further strengthen trade and investment ties.
They were also encouraged to take advantage of business potential arising from liberalisation initiatives under the ambit of regional and bilateral preferential trading agreements.
Rafidah said business councils in Malaysia and Australia should recognise this and act accordingly for the success of their private sector.
From 1994 to 2004, total trade between Malaysia and Australia grew by an average of 12.4 percent annually.
In 2004, Malaysia’s total trade with Australia amounted to US$5.9 billion, up by 53 percent from 2003.
In terms of investment, Australian investments in Malaysia in 2004 were valued at US$31 million in 12 approved manufacturing projects while in the first six months of 2005, total Australian capital investment stood at US$2.9 million.
Among the areas involved were rubber products and machinery manufacturing.
Between 1999 and 2004, Malaysian investment in Australia totalled US$240 million in several major areas, including property development, trading and related services, travel and hospitality, engineering and mining, building and construction as well as stockbroking.
The next JTC meeting will take place in Australia.